What the Coronavirus Can Teach Us About Scarcity and Gratitude

Scarcity is scary, and for some people, it’s not a temporary thing.

Photo by Steve Knutson on Unsplash

I would guess that most of the people reading this article have spent much of their lives in an area where scarcity was rarely ever an issue. When something was desired, there was a store relatively close by that could meet your needs. Grocery shopping was a similar event every time you went. You knew what you were getting and what would be available at the local store.

Before the past week, I had never considered whether the local store would have toilet paper or not. I just assumed they would. Similarly, I never questioned if there would be fruit and vegetables available. In my mind, it was a given.

For many people, growing concern over the coronavirus has caused them to look at grocery shopping in a completely new way (at least for a couple of weeks). With some grocery stores being cleaned out of certain health and food items, there is a sense of scarcity that has developed. People don’t just have to consider what they can afford, they have to also consider what is available at the moment.

This is a great time to consider what it means to deal with scarcity.

Scarcity Is a Problem

While most of us have never had to deal with the scarcity currently seen in stores, many of us are familiar with other forms of scarcity. You may be acquainted with monetary scarcity and not having enough money to buy things you want or need. You may also know the scarcity that emerges around good deals such as Black Friday sales.

I think it’s safe to say most of us don’t enjoy scarcity. Not having enough of something is a problem. Sometimes, we can work our way around the struggles caused by scarcity through means such as getting a loan to pay for needed goods or shopping online when products aren’t available nearby. These are means of conquering scarcity for a short time, but they often require more thought and effort on our part. They are methods we resort to when we need something but our current resources are lacking.

Scarcity challenges our base need for security. We want to know we will have the things we need to live comfortably. When those things are scarce, we can start to panic. Our lives become filled with stressful decisions that can slowly eat away at our peace of mind. When scarcity plays a large role in our life, it becomes much more difficult to meet our baseline state of happiness.

Scarcity Often Requires Us to Plan Better

If you live in places that have seen people rushing to the store for supplies, you may have had to spend more time planning your trip. For example, what do you do if your local store has been wiped out of cereal? Do you go to a different store? Do you look online? Or, do you simply go without cereal? What if it’s something you view as a necessity? Are you going to have to buy a different product that can work as a substitute until you can get what you need?

These are all things you might have had to consider as a result of scarcity. Living in upstate New York, I’ve never had to consider these questions before the past few days. Our family has yet to have to resort to one of these backup options, but I’m sure these questions have become a real concern for other families in the area. It’s a stressful event to see unfold.

Most of Us Face Relatively Little Scarcity in Our Daily Lives

For many families throughout the world, scarcity isn’t something they have to consider on most days. Most days, we’re able to wake up knowing that we have the resources necessary for that day, even if those resources feel slightly stretched. We can take comfort in knowing we won’t starve today and we’ll still have a house to sleep in tonight.

There are, however, many families that aren’t as fortunate. We may not hear their stories as frequently, but that doesn’t mean these struggles are kept to a small area. Throughout the world, there are people that wake up wondering whether they have enough to survive today. Here in the United States, many families don’t have enough food to live healthy lives from day-to-day. Social programs can be very helpful, but they don’t always eliminate the problem. We should take this opportunity to be glad for what we do have on a daily basis.

Use This Situation as an Opportunity to Practice Gratitude

Trust me, I’m just as annoyed watching someone buy 50 rolls of toilet paper for what appears to be just themselves. I understand how frustrating and anger-inducing it can be to see the shelves have little to nothing left. I completely understand your stress trying to make sure you can purchase your necessities. It’s okay to feel angry, frustrated, or anxious. I completely get it.

I do think it’s important though that you try to take a brief moment to recognize that this isn’t a daily struggle for you because for some people it is. Some people have to go through this every time they walk into the store. The least we can do for them is to take a moment to acknowledge how difficult it must be. We may never get to a point where scarcity has been eliminated from our lives, but we can use moments like these to attempt to better understand what it means to face scarcity and the effects it has on people all around us.

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